living intuitively

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Posts tagged mindfulness
W O R K it I N not just O U T
Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.
— Thomas Edison

Tell me if one or more of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind:

  • I need to lose weight
  • I need to tighten up
  • Why am I not seeing results? I've been careful with my eating yet...no change
  • Okay, so I've been exercising consistently annndddd still nothing
  • If I'm not seeing results, that must mean I'm clearly not hitting it hard enough. Time to really drill down with my workouts and my eating
  • Carbs are enemy #1. I'll cut them out completely and get crazy shredded
  • I was up studying/with the baby/sick all night, but I need to be consistent with my early-morning workouts. Gym time for sleep is a sacrifice I gotta make
  • Pain is gain. Exercise and "clean" nutrition aren't meant to be easy/enjoyable

As Dwight from The Office would assert: FALSE. As The Grinch would aver: WRONG-O. As the...okay, you get the idea.

Health isn’t about being ‘perfect’ with food or exercise or herbs. Health is about balancing those things with your desires. It’s about nourishing your spirit as well as your body
— Golda Poretsky

It's so easy to get trapped in the mentality that if you aren't seeing results, that means you need to work harder in the gym/be more disciplined in the kitchen. 

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Some truths to consider:

  • What's happening internally is more important than what's happening externally

You can kill yourself in the gym and eat as "cleanly" as possible, but if you're stressed/sleep deprived/hormonally imbalanced, you won't see results. Moreover, the stress you place on your body through intense workouts/calorie (or carb or fat) restriction could actually be CAUSING weight gain. Real talk. Your body's job is to keep you alive and functioning optimally, so if it feels like its wellbeing is threatened in any way (excessive energetic output, insufficient nutrients/calories) it will spring into shutdown mode. 

  • Hormones reign supreme

Hormones are sneaky little bastards and can wreak havoc on your metabolic health. If you've been exercising regularly and honing your nutrition, yet still feel you're fighting an uphill battle, start side eyeing dem hormones. Consult your doc about running some tests to ensure all is well on the hormonal front. And don't go jacking up your hormones by ignoring your body's cries for help. Hormones are affected by multiple factors: lack of sleep, stress, excessive exercise, improper nutrition (inadequate caloric intake, insufficient fat/carbs/protein, etc). Do right by your body and it'll do right by you.

Piggybacking off of these first two points:

  • Stress is ew and sleep is BAE

This is where working IN is paramount. More important than working those bunz is minimizing your stress. Your physical health reflects your mental health. Your results depend on being solid mentally. Trust me when I say you'll reap a much larger reward when you prioritize your mind over your body. Get your mind right, and your body will follow. Sleep is a crucial component of this. Sleep restores and heals the body from the daily stresses it faces. Fight the urge to skimp on ZZZs. Your time is much better spent ensuring a full 8 hours than rising early to work out. Rather than compromising sleep to get an hour workout, try sleeping in later and then doing a 15-minute full-body HIIT strength and cardio combo. Honestly, if you hit it hard enough, 15 minutes are plenty to rev up the metabolism and keep you fit, and you have more time for life/rest. 

Shift your thinking from weight to self care. “I need to lose weight” becomes “How can I pay attention to what my body needs?”
  • Every body is different

Some respond to lower carb grub (and maintain optimal energy). Some thrive on a vegan/vegetarian subsistence. Some do best on high fat nourishment. It's all about finding YOUR sweet spot. You'll be able to *feel* when you find it.

Listen to your body. It’s smarter than you.

The same goes for exercise. Some people can run a marathon a day and be totally functional, or work out for two hours six days a week and still have energy to spare. Not moi. I love high-intensity workouts but my body does not. It does much better with mostly low- to moderate intensity workouts, with one or two harder ones sprinkled in per week. When I do two back-to-back intense workouts, I'm down for the count the rest of the week. My sleep takes a hit, my concentration suffers, and it's Zombie Whitney. Also (but less important) my muscle definition decreases. What have YOU noticed with your body? Experiment to find out.

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Lately, what I've been doing is setting my timer for 23.5 minutes (random, I know - that's just what the interval time app I use defaulted to) and perform various exercises for a minute nonstop. This works for me, and my body responds exceptionally well to it. It keeps me from mentally and physically burning out. It feels doable (less than 30 minutes - easy peasy lemon squeezy!) and keeps me on track. Shockingly, I've still maintained my strength and stamina despite giving up the longer, more intense cardio and strength workouts.  Again, it's all about honoring your body's cues and finding your fitness and nutritional sweet spots.


Nature gets it right. Human intervention gets it wrong.
— Dr. Libby Weaver

Working out/eating well doesn't have to suck! Explore your options to find what jazzes you up.  You truly do have so many, so don't feel like you have to resign yourself to the dreadmill (I personally can't stand the treadmill - I get so bored!). 

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Mindful eating means trusting your body, not a calculator.

The same goes for nutrition. Healthy eating doesn't mean bland food or bust. There are SOOO MANY delicious natural flavor choices out there! Play around with natural seasonings and spices to find what gets you going. It may require an upfront investment of time and energy to experiment, but then you'll get the hang of it and that investment will pay off. And lucky us, living in the world of social media inspo. Delectable recipes at our fingertips! All those social media influencers did the hard work for us. I personally recommend simply eating intuitively and listening to your body, rather than following a specific protocol, but it's totally up to you! It might help to use a structured regimen as a guide (emphasis on guide - try not to get obsessive and rigid!) while you get your feet wet if you're not following a certain protocol. A good place to start is the Whole 30 protocol. The best rule of thumb is to eat food as close to its natural form as possible.

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Mindful eating is very pleasant.
We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people surrounding us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I've never agreed with the saying, "Live to eat, not eat to live." Food/eating can and should still be enjoyable! Sure, if you're emotionally eating and ignoring your body's satiety cues, that could be problematic. But why not derive joy from a biological necessity, something we do multiple times daily? Mindful eating - really relishing the food and making that mind-body connection - can really transform the experience and ensure you are on the same page with your body and heeding its needs.

Remember when your body is hungry, it wants nutrients, not calories.
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Create healthy habits, not restrictions.

xx,

-w-

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L E T it G O
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Newsflash, y'all: We're human! This means we lose our cool. We get impatient, sad, and unreasonable. We snap at people and occasionally act a fool. We sometimes feel anxious, fearful, and unsure.

We've all been there! We all get it. It's not something for which we should hide or criticize ourselves. It's all part of the human experience, amigos. 

The key lies in how quickly and effectively we can get back to good. How speedily we can release those negative vibes and return to those good vibes. 

Exercise the letting go muscle: the healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with.
— Sharon Salzberg

Salzberg is a New York Times best-selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. Cool lady, I'll tell you that. As she indicates, our "wandering" from peace and happiness is not the focus; rather, it's the return that matters. We're all going to wander - some of us less often, some of us more often, than others. Forget about the frequency. Focus on strengthening the "return" muscle. The more we train and use it, the stronger it gets. The faster and more often you can let go and release those negative emotions, the better you'll get at it. 

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The art of concentration is a continual letting go.
— Sharon Salzberg

Letting go can be tough stuff. It could be letting go of a toxic thought, a resentful feeling, self shame or guilt, frustration, worry, rage, whatever. Sometimes it's not just a snap of the fingers to bring instant relief. It's important to feel those negative emotions (so they don't become repressed and fester), and then let that shiz go. The secret is self compassion. Maybe you made a mistake (yelled at your kids, or wrongly accused your friend) and feel awful about it. It's okay! Genuinely apologize if necessary (if the situation calls for it), make amends if you need to, and move the heck on. Come back into balance with kindness toward yourself. This makes the process faster and restorative. 

Meditation trains the mind the way physical exercise trains the body.
— Sharon Salzberg

Same concept if you're meditating. If you've ever dabbled in it, you know how challenging it can be! It's not about sitting there in perfect, no-thought bliss. Your head will likely be swimming with thoughts, like, "I'm hungry." "I'm tired." "Oh, shoot, I have to buy a birthday present for my friend. I hope I remember to do that!" "How long has it been?" And on and on and ON. But as Superstar Salzberg advises, "The healing is in the return." That right there is why you're meditating: to get better at returning to peace. And if your thoughts keep coming, great! More opportunities to strengthen that "return" muscle and get crazy buff. 

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This universe is much too big to hold onto, but it is the perfect size for letting go.
— Sharon Salzberg

And if anxiety is your thing? Letting go is the antidote! This takes time to master, but once you get the hang of it - it's a beautiful thing. Utterly miraculous. When you're fearful/anxious, you're trusting in your own strength. When you're at ease, you're trusting in the strength of the higher power (God/Universe/Allah/whomever). My favorite mantra recently is: "I relax. I let go. My life is in perfect flow." I repeat this to myself over and over when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Let me tell you, it really comes in clutch every night when I lie down to sleep and have a zillion thoughts sprinting through my head. It grounds and calms my thoughts, serving as a focal point to instantly relax me. Try it!  

xx,

-w-

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IT'S NOT ME IT'S YOU
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Even if you're genuinely the sweetest person alive, you've felt frustrated by another person, right? Or you've gone after something sought by others, like a job, or a house...or even a parking space!

Let's say you and someone at work are competing for an opportunity. There is only one spot available and you both have your sights set on it. 

On a basic level, what is your need here?

Spoiler alert: Your need is NOT for the opportunity itself. Depending on what the opportunity is, your need may be for financial security. It may be for growth and progress. It may be for acknowledgement of your hard work. That particular opportunity is a vehicle, or method, for fulfilling that need.

So ask yourself: Is there another way to get your need(s) meet without this specific opportunity? 

YES!

You could get a promotion or an award. You could even change jobs or branch out on your own. You could find another source of income.


The point here is:

No two people’s needs are ever in conflict. Only the strategies for getting those needs met are in conflict.
— Neil Strauss

 

Reflect on a recent conversation that could have gone better, or a conflict you experienced. Maybe you're battling with a significant other, or a friend, or a boss, or a customer service representative. Strip away the rest and drill down on what your common, basic needs are. Maybe it's the need to provide a cohesive, stable environment for your kids [spouse]. Maybe your needs are to feel supported and heard [friend]. Maybe you need to feel valued and trusted [boss]. Maybe the needs are efficiency and reparation [customer service rep]. 

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Focus on those common needs and remember: at our core, we all have the same basic needs. What varies are our ideas for how to meet those needs. Some seek validation through fancy possessions and high socioeconomic status. Some look for love in toxic relationships. Some think hoarding what's "theirs" [time/money/ideas/energy] is the only way to ensure there's enough for them. Some of these methods work, and some not so much. Some are harmless, some are harmful - to self/others. Whatever your method is, try to choose one that serves the highest good. So let's do our best to remain open and empathetic to others as we navigate life and work on getting those needs meet. 

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Negative feelings come from unmet needs.

Anger could stem from a need for respect that isn't honored. Confusion could signal a lack of communication and honesty that are needed. Impatience could be from a need to be understood. Or lezbereal - maybe you're just friggin' HANGRY and need some F O O D!

Strive for internal and external awareness, and look for ways to meet those mutual needs. If you're ever in doubt regarding just what those needs are, do your best to communicate with an active ear and an open mind. If possible, eliminate assumptions and seek confirmation from the other person/people. Put down the gloves and halt the hostility. Sometimes opposition/competition is unavoidable (e.g. vying for a job, or spot on a team, etc) but at the very least, identifying those needs helps you relate to and empathize with the other(s). 

One love,

-w-

C H A N G E
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography


Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
— Rumi

C H A N G E. Depending on your mindset/circumstance, change can be welcomed or dreaded. Accepted or resisted. 

If you're stuck in a job you hate and are suddenly offered your dream job, change is pretty great. If that dream job is across the country in a completely unfamiliar city, away from family and friends...it might seem daunting and stressful. 

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LIfe is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both.
— Lana Lang

Some people naturally thrive on change - even seek it. Some avoid and resent it. And some fall somewhere in between. Where are you?

However, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, change is inevitable. As they say, the only constant is change. So since we know it's a given, let's talk about tips for accepting it. 


The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
— Socrates

1. View it as a developmental opportunity.

As Socrates advises, the trick is to stay forward-focused. Try to minimize time spent reflecting on how great things were pre-change. Try to emphasize the positives the change will bring - or at the very least, the opportunity for you to incorporate positivity.

Decide to make it as beneficial and enjoyable as possible. It's happening - and it's ENTIRELY within your power to make it a good thing. Instead of focusing on loss, focus on gain, particularly regarding your power. Change can leave us feeling powerless, so spin it and focus on the power you DO have - and how you'll use it to your benefit. 

Change is a fantastic opportunity for us to step into our full potential and become a better person than we were before. If you reject change, you'll deny yourself - and the world - the chance to become all you can be, thereby denying the world your full talents and gifts. Please don't do that!


Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, changed, and rearranged to relocate us to the place we’re meant to be.

2. Trust everything happens for a reason.

Know the universe is conspiring for you, not against you. Think back on every significant change you've experienced thus far. If you're anything like me, the changes that sucked the most to endure were the changes for which I was ultimately most grateful. They taught me the most/improved my life the most. 


Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.
— Eckhart Tolle

3. Know you are not alone.

Everyone feels doubtful and uncertain sometimes. These feelings are 100% normal, and the sooner you recognize and accept this, the sooner you will reach peace. Acknowledge your emotions, feel them without repressing them, and let them float on their way. 

4. Allow others to support you.

Let others help you. Please don't enable pride to prevent you from doing so. If you lack supportive friends/family, seek out other resources to help with what you need, whether it's a moving company, support group, etc. Chances are, you're not the first one to go through this change, so there are likely established resources to ease your adjustment. We're all in this together!!


Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong.

5. Take care of yourself.

Now more than ever is a crucial time for you to practice self-care. Eat nutritious food. Move and stretch your body. Ensure sufficient rest. Practice meditation, or at least incorporate down time into your days. Take care of you, so you can meet the change(s) with your best self. 


Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.
— Robin Sharma

xx,

-w-

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
— Charles Darwin
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M E D I T A T I O N
Model: Chloe Bauer Ford/Robert Black Agency  Whitney Richardson Photography

Model: Chloe Bauer Ford/Robert Black Agency

Whitney Richardson Photography

The body benefits from movement and the mind benefits from stillness.
— Sakyong Mipham

If you're anything like me, it can feel impossible to quiet the mind. I constantly have 10,000 tabs open and my mind jumps from one to the next to the next to the... Wait, what was I talking about??

This frenzied pace can be draining! Emotionally/physically/mentally draining. It's particularly problematic when you're lying in bed desperate for ZZZs. Isn't it maddening when all you want is to slide into dreamland, and your mind is buzzing?? Torturous, it really is. 

And/or maybe you feel the days' stresses getting to you throughout the week. You constantly feel like you're in a reactive state, and just need to come down from all of it. Back to steady. Back to good. Back to zen (or at least some semblance of it!). 

Or maybe you're facing a major issue/problem, and unsure what to do. Internationally-acclaimed business guru, speaker, author, and productivity expert Brian Tracy advises whenever you have a problem, an obstacle, a frustration, or a challenge in your life, you should sit quietly in silence for 30 to 60 minutes. In his Get Smart book (amazing book - I'll link it under resources), he asserts, "The very first time you do this, almost without exception, the answer to your biggest problem will come to you, almost like a butterfly alighting on your shoulder." He adds, "Many of my students report to me that problems that had concerned them for weeks or months were almost instantly resolved by their first practice of a session in solitude." He further promises your answer that comes will be complete in every way and will address every detail of the problem or difficulty. It will be simple, clear, and entirely within your capabilities to act. When you apply the solution, everything will immediately resolve itself. 

Tracy acknowledges your first session in solitude may be extremely difficult. You'll almost have to hold yourself down for the first 20 to 25 minutes. KEEP AT IT, because then your stresses will melt away and you will enter complete relaxation. Uh, yeah! Sign me up! At this point, your mind will begin to flow with thoughts, ideas, insights, perspectives, solutions to problems, and other inspirations, any of which may change your life! 

Model: Chloe Bauer Ford/Robert Black Agency  Whitney Richardson Photography

Model: Chloe Bauer Ford/Robert Black Agency

Whitney Richardson Photography

For years I intended to meditate. I knew of its wide-ranging benefits (enhanced memory, improved sleep, heightened energy, regulated emotions, etc!). I'd had doctors recommend it to me. I think I resisted it for so long because: 1. transitioning from hyperactive mind to quiet mind seemed too daunting; and 2. I always justified a better use of my limited time. Finally, after yet another wildly successful person attributed their success to meditation, I decided to give it a go. 

The shocking part?? It was SO MUCH EASIER than I expected! It was as if my mind breathed a massive sigh of relief. I started with 15 minutes, and am now up to 30 minutes. From the first session, I started actually looking forward to it!


One meditation method does not fit all. You have so many options! You have moving meditation, guided meditation, silent meditation, etc. Explore, experiment, and find what works for you! For each session, I personally set an intention or two, and meditate for clarity/guidance/peace. Then I just sit comfortably (comfort is key!) and focus on my breath. I'll focus on relevant affirmations. If my mind wanders, I'll gently encourage it to return to the present. That's really helped me - adopting a laid-back approach and not getting hyped up if my mind wanders or a distraction arises (cue barking dogs!). There are many meditation apps to simplify the process. I'll list some below.

However, as Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche notes, "Meditation is not just for relaxation. Its primary purpose is to develop the capacity to respond skillfully and gracefully to life's difficulties as well as its joys." It allows you to be mindful and live in the moment.

Meditation helps you live a proactive instead of a reactive life. Still not sold? Put it this way: Meditation helps you create and live the life you want, instead of the life others create for you. It helps you decrease emotional reactivity. As Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek and Tribe of Mentors, and host of the Tim Ferriss Podcast) puts it, it helps you pause before blowing up, helping you "actually get the result you want, instead of the conflict that might be very gratifying for a second then creates a whole host of other issues for yourself." Win win!


All of this still may not resonate with you. I get it. Or maybe you're unsure of where to start. The easiest place is using the app called Headspace. Simply do the "10 and 10" which is 10 minutes for 10 straight days. That's it! You'll get a taste of what meditation can do for you.

Meditation is a slow melt into love.
— Laura Jaworski

 

Meditation has the power to improve every single aspect of your life. And when you finally do get to it - you'll wish you started it sooner. TRUST.

xx,

-w-

R E S O U R C E S:

BOOKS

Get Smart by Brian Tracy

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

PODCAST

The Model Health Show: The 5 Biggest Myths about Meditation with Light Watkins

http://theshawnstevensonmodel.com/myths-about-meditation/

APPS

Headspace (iOS, Android, Web)

Insight Timer (iOS, Android)

Stop, Breathe, and Think (iOS, Android, Web)

Take A Break! (iOS, Android, Web)